Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: May 2011.

The Good:  The end of Uni semester.

The day after I handed in my last essay, I bumped into someone I had just seen the week prior. They stopped me asking if I had just come back from holiday. Apparently I was glowing and looked really relaxed. They were shocked when I responded ‘no’. I then realised that my relaxed state must be because of the end of uni stress and pressure, well ‘the end’ until it starts again in August. Still, once second semester is over, it will be as if I have taken another holiday!!… which is kind of like having had two ‘holidays’ in a year… how very decadent of me!!! I suddenly feel very sated. I can’t recall ever having two holidays in year (Does going to Hobart twice in one winter (when I was retrenched) count?, it is only Hobart...).


The Bad: Having no idea, but thinking you do.

Sometimes, as my friends are well aware, I think I am 110% sure of something and will argue the point till I am blue in the face. I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that it often turns out that I am wrong…very often and often very wrong. The funny thing is, it’s usually about silly things, take for example a recent discussion.

I was at a friend’s house and had brought along an across-the-shoulder bag that I had purchased last year to use whilst travelling overseas. The bag has some great security features (slash proof, etc) and looks like a normal across-the-shoulder bag. One feature that I thought was impractical was the zip that zipped closed towards the back of me. Really, it should zip towards the front of me so that no one can walk behind me and try to unzip it and take stuff out of the bag. This was discussed and my friends agreed with me until….I stated that the reason that the bag zipped this way was because it was for American’s who are all as we know, left handed. They would obviously wear the shoulder bag on the other side and as such, it would zip closed towards the front of them… My friends responded with WTF? I then confidently and patiently explained my point again (thinking I was brilliant and was educating my poor unknowledgable friends), said friends stared at me silently for a few moments, I guess wondering who amongst them was going to be the one to burst my bubble of self delusion. We did all have a good laugh about it…Alarmingly though, I have been going around matter-of-factly saying that Americans are all left handed to so many people for so long now and I can be persuasive….

The Ugly: The cold sore.

With recent uni and other stresses, a cold sore erupted, jutting out from my left lower lip like an Easter Island statue. Work colleagues declared that it was hardly visible- ‘oh no, I wouldn’t have noticed it, unless you pointed it out’ etc… so yes, I work with liars, which was confirmed when I saw the cleaner at work later that day (who has limited English, coming from a non English speaking country). From 25 metres away she pointed accusingly at my lip and demanded ‘what’s that on your face?’ As she walked towards me with finger outstretched, I shat myself  fearing the worst. Was she going to cast magic on me, or cast me out of the workplace? Insane thoughts ran through my brain, silenced only by her arrival in front of me. But then...then, her outstretched finger found my cold sore and started to rub it vigorously.

Her: ‘What is this?, It won’t come off!’
Me: (In a state of shock and horror, barely able to whisper) ‘wash your hands!’
Her: (annoyed) ‘My hands are clean!’
Me: (louder now, though still shocked and slightly paralysed) ‘No. You need to wash your hands’
Her: (becoming insulted by my command) ‘No! I washed them before, they are clean!’

She then pulled the cold sore rubbing finger away from me, only to then rub her own lip with it! Yes, sadly this is true. I have no idea why she rubbed her lip with the same finger.
I sighed heavily, letting out a barely audible ‘oh my god’. I turned and walked away, there was nothing more for me to do. My head hung low, as I made my way back to my desk. I was heavy with the knowledge that I have just passed on herpes simplex to someone else. I also regretted the fact that I didn’t grab her hand after she rubbed my cold sore, dragged her to the sink and insisted she wash her finger. But knowing my luck that would have started a physical brawl and between me and a 6ft tall, solid and strong African lady, no bets on who the winner would be. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Good Friday at Heide Museum of Modern Art- pt 2

Continuing on from the previous post about 'D' and I visiting Heidi this past good Friday (click here for Pt 1), here are more some pictures from our day out. One of the funniest things about that day was that afterwards, we realised that we'd had such a great time on the grounds, that we had forgotten to go into any of the galleries! So after 20 odd years of Heide museum of modern art being on my 'to-do-list', it still remains there!

I have no idea what this is, some kind of mushroom? D kept referring to it as 'top-deck', because it reminded her of the similar looking chocolate.
D stumbled across this view and called my attention to it.We just knew that we had to take a picture of it.

 If you haven't already been to Heide go, if not for the art, go at least for the stunning grounds!Hopefully the pictures that D and I took on our day out captured a little bit of that beauty. D and I did end our afternoon of frolicking amongst nature and the scultures, with a late lunch at Café Vue at Heide. This is an off-shoot of Vue de Monde, and was lovely. We overdosed on carbs' with a potato and leek pie each(served with mashed potato and mashed pea), as well as the side of hand cut chips! We were so hungry we just ordered without thinking! Still, it was all yum and we had no regrets!

If you do want to know more about Heide, (and after viewing these pictures how could you not??), click here for their website!  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Good Friday at Heide Museum of Modern Art- pt 1

This past good Friday, instead of staying in and mourning the death of our lord and savior...(for the non Catholic/ that as 'instead of staying indoors during a public holiday').. My dear mate 'D' and I decided to find out what was open. Heide museum came up and D was surprised that I had never been. It was one of those places that had been on my 'to do list' for twenty odd years now. So.. it was settled, next stop Heidi. We had a ball, laughed heaps (as we do) and shared my little digital camera. Here are some pics we took. These are all of the outside grounds.

For those that are not familiar with Heide and want to know more, click on this link. Aside from visiting the galleries (which are reasonably priced to enter-and you're supporting a not-for-profit organisation!), the grounds are free to walk amongst (bonus in my books!!). As the below pics hopefully suggest, we felt like we were in the country, rather than on the outskirts of town. Despite the number of great sculptures scattered about the grounds, D and I seemed to take more pictures of the beauty that nature had on display that day.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Something old, Something new, Something borrowed and Something blue: May 2011

Something old:

Billy Holiday! The description for this states that it was in  Newark, NJ, 10/July/1958.
Live Lady Day.. say no more!

Billie Holiday- "What A Little Moonlight Can Do"

Something new:

Two new tunes. Firstly, Adele. A mate recommended that I check out an episode of 'the Graham Norton' show that she was on.. she was hilarious, really down earth and an amazing singer. Here is a remix of a song of her new L.P. '21'. Jamie from The Xx remixes this (yes he is everywhere, seems like only yesterday he released the remix L.P. of Gil Scott-Heron's 'I'm new here', retitled 'We're new here').

Adele- 'Rolling in the deep' (Jamie xx remix ft Childish Gambino)

Next is the magnificent, My Morning Jacket and a track off the forthcoming LP "Curcuital". Something about this track reminds me a little (and in a good way) of  Electrelane's L.P. The "power Out', and in particular the track "The Valleys"... but Jim James and crew take the idea up a notch and make this theirs.

My Morning Jacket-"Holding on to black metal"

Something borrowed:
In 2001, Mary Lou Lord self-released an L.P. called 'Live city sounds'. Which was essentially Mary playing a bunch of tunes live in a Boston subway. It is raw, you can hear the trains, the passersby and all the mistakes, it is honest and simply lovely! Here is her cover of a Bob Dylan song, and I have to say I much prefer her version to Bob's original!

Mary Lou Lord- "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go".

Last but not least,

Something blue:

This next track by Fleet foxes was posted recently, well the LP version was,  this live version highlights not only how amazing they are, but also how magical the city of Paris can be! The track itself, starts properly in at 2.30mins and is recorded in "La Grand Palais". At the beginning of the clip we have a few shots of the band sitting on grass in front of 'La Grand Palais' and it brings up my own memories of last year, when my friend Mary and I picnicked with some young Parisians in the same spot! We talked, drank Ricard, played several games of  Pétanque and then once it was night, Mary and I wondered drunkenly through the streets towards and under the Eiffel tower... a story for another day.


Fleet Foxes- 'Blue Ridge Mountains' (live and acoustic)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

We as people

Recently there was a reported death (or assassination, as some saw it), that saw mixed emotions worldwide, some celebrated, some mourned, some called for revenge and some feared retribution. Most people who heard about this event have an opinion on it. Many of those also hold an opinion on where the actions that led to the death/assassination sit within (or outside of) international law. I am left wondering what we as people are doing? I also wonder when will we start making positive and peaceful change in this world that we all share and what might that change look like?

We live in a world mostly full of punitive justice models. Models which focus on punishment as a means of addressing a ‘wrong’. Even moving beyond that, ‘frontier justice’ also springs to mind, where a person or people are judge, jury and executioner and a ‘fair’ hearing is not likely-very Wild West as the name suggests. Our justice models give us the foundation for our own moral compass- ‘If this is how the law operates then this is ‘ok’’. But is it? Do we need to re-envision what we think justice should look like?

I am sure that many alternatives currently exist, and that there are even more waiting to be imagined (for we are blessed with the ability to imagine and create- which we sometimes forgot). I wonder sometimes when it comes to ‘justice’, if our decisions and actions are driven by fear and closed hearts rather than by open hearts and minds.

One alternative to the punitive justice model that comes to mind is ‘restorative justice’. It is a model which focuses on the needs of the ‘victim’ and the ‘offender’. Both parties take part in the process of addressing the ‘wrong’. ‘Offenders’ are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions and to understand what it was like for the ‘victim’ and apologise.  Trusty Wikipedia states that “Restorative justice that fosters dialogue between victim and offender shows the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability”. Compared to the punitive justice model, is the restorative justice model more in line with our civilised sensibilities? More in line with the type of society we wish to live within?

I can’t help but wonder why we still use archaic models of justice like the punitive one? Models that years ago sent people to jail, to a foreign land, or to the gallows for stealing a loaf of bread to feed a starving family… yes, this is the same model of justice that we use today, where the ‘punishment’ is seen to fit the ‘crime’. Don’t we want to work with ‘offenders’ and ‘victims’ to create positive change and reduce re-offending? Don’t we want ‘offenders’ to see ‘the error of their ways’ and be part of society once more?

My thoughts come back to the topic of death and killing. I see beyond the singular –victim-offender, and to the plural, to groups, states and countries. Where war is declared as a way to address or right a wrong, where it is seen to be an extension of justice. I am reminded of a touching scene in a Hollywood film called ‘The curious case of Benjamin Button’ in which a new clock is unveiled in a train station and as it starts to run backwards the clockmaker says that he made it that way ‘so that perhaps the boys that we lost in the war might stand and come home again. Home to farm, work and have children. To live long full lives. Perhaps my own son might come home again”.

Unfortunately we are not able to turn back time and bring back the dead, or right wrongs, so how do we reduce the need or the desire to do this? How do we create a future filled with understanding and compassion? A future free of violence and needless death. A future in which we do not need to wish our dead children, killed through war, back home. A future in which we have no need to wish our dead children to have lived long full lives?  

How do we create a peaceful future in which we do not fear retribution, in which we have no need to fear, because ‘victim’ and offender’ were all were involved in the process? How do we create a future in which our moral compasses are not pointing towards punishment, but instead point towards understanding, accountability, acceptance, peaceful change and inclusive outcomes? How do we create a future in which justice ‘restores’, rather than just punishes (and hopes that the punishment will be a deterrent)?

And more than this, when do we start making this change?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Adventures in an adult boutique: the proposition

I recently helped out in the boutique again and had one of those crazy and insane days! If pissing off a bikie (who stormed out and roared off on his Harley) wasn’t enough, I then got into a heated discussion with a male customer who bragged about threatening to kill a women (I was outraged and told him that was not ‘on’ and whilst I barely refrained from telling him to ‘fuck off out of the shop’, I did engage with him to explore why he did that, what that would have been like for the lady etc..), anyway, if all that wasn’t enough for one day, there was more….

I must say, that if you are likely to be offended by the mention of ‘butt plugs’ then tune out now dear reader, for this posting is not for the prudish and is after all, set in a sex shop.

So, ‘The Proposition’… It all started with a twenty-something year old, tall, lanky boy with a gammy leg walking (well, more like hobbling) into the store. He browsed and made his way to the counter with a huge butt-plug and I mean HUGE butt plug that he wanted to purchase. I looked at him and then at the item and then at him, and then back at the item and thought- there is no way that is going to fit, is he insane?  But then who I am to know?

The item was a reasonable $25, but the young man said he only had $15. Our discussion went a little like this:

Me: Umm ok, well it’s $25. Do you have an Eftpos or credit card you can use?
Him: No, I only have $15. (He looks at me nervously) 
Me: ok, well, there are some other options in your price range, lets go over and have a look.
Him: No, I looked already there isn’t anything else. I just have $15.
Me: OK, well, I can do 10% discount, but that’s all I can do, but even with that discount you still don’t have enough. I can put the item to the side for you if you want to come back when you have the money. To be honest these things don’t exactly fly out the door, if you came back in a few weeks it would probably still be on the shelf… why don’t I leave you to have a think about what you would like to do.

I leave him for a few minutes and then he suggests that he will go to an ATM and get out the extra money needed (Halle-bloody-luiah!). 

Seconds after he has left the store he comes back in and asks to use the toilet. I inform him that we don’t have public toilets, only a staff toilet and then I ask him if it’s an emergency. He says it isn’t and leaves. At this point I am thinking WTF???

Later in the day he returns and walks right past me at the counter (where I have put his ginormous butt plug aside), and he has headed straight to the butt plug section again (yes we have a section! Apparently they are popular with certain groups of people, who would have thought?). The young man soon returns to the counter with a metal butt plug. Yes, METAL. He now no longer wants the $25 ginormous butt plug (ok, no problem). I pick up the metal butt plug and jesus! it is heavy! I point this out to him, as I am want to do…

Me: this is really heavy, are you sure you want this? (take note of the great sales skills!)
Him: yes
Me: Really? Have you felt how heavy it is? (yes, as soon as I say this I realise that it was dumb, because he obviously carried it to the counter from our wall of butt plugs… and now that I think of it, where is my trophy for salesperson of the year??).
Him: yes.

I stand there looking at him thinking ‘mate this thing feels like it weighs a kilo. This will weigh your poor ass to the ground where it will drag along the floor as you attempt to walk!’ I am pretty sure that these thoughts were written in large black permanent marker right across my face. He just stood there waiting.

Me: umm ok, well that will be $40 thanks.  

Here is where it gets friggin’ crazier! He then says he doesn’t have enough for the metal plug (which is $40) he only has $30 now.

Me- Mate it’s $40, if I do 10% discount for you, that’s still $36.
Him: I only have $30
Me: ok, so you don’t have enough for this one, but you can buy the $25 (ginormous butt plug) now.
Him: I don’t want that one, I want this metal one.
Me: do you understand that you don’t have enough money for it? It’s $40, you only have $30.
Him: Can we come to some arrangement?
Me: (puzzled and thinking ‘is he an idiot’?) Arrangement? What do you mean? (says incredulous and innocent I).

With this he pushed his tongue against the inside of his cheek and made the international sign for… ‘you know what’.

Me (now feeling awkward and a little embarrassed): I can only do 10% discount, that’s all I can do for you!!! (says I, becoming slightly hysterical). Mate I could go $35 for you, but that’s it! (becoming even more hysterical). Mate, we want you to come in and buy stuff and come back and buy more, but you have to have the right money, you can’t pull a ‘this is all I have’, do you understand!!?? (at this point I think I am almost shouting and my arms are flailing about).’

Dejected he says, ‘Ok, I think have $5 in the car’. He retrieves the money and pays for the metal butt plug and leaves the store. Minutes later, yes... minutes later, he returns with the metal butt plug and says ‘can I swap it, it is really heavy’. 

Crazy thing is, he swapped it for Heterosexual porn… I looked at it like ‘who are you trying to fool’… but could not be bothered getting into a conversation that might have led to more awkward ‘arrangement’ offers.

I have to say that I was annoyed at this young man for putting himself at risk like he did. He doesn’t know me, I could be filled with STD/STI’s etc. I could have been some homophobic serial killer for all he knew!!! I think I am mostly annoyed with myself for not saying anything to him at the time. Yeah ok, I acknowledge that I don’t look like a violent serial killer (they are taller and have more hair) and I admit that the radio was playing show tunes (say no more !) but still….

As for the ‘proposition’ (a.k.a. ‘coming to some kind of arrangement’), a mate suggested that this might be a fringe benefit of the job. The thing is, and call me boring, but I prefer my fringe benefits in the form of  tax exemptions, like when I worked at a not –for –profit organisation and a large chunk of my salary was ‘tax free’. I do know that if this young man hobbles in again and I am here, I will sit him down and set him on the straight and narrow. Yes, it’s the boring and responsible adult in me coming out. I have to say that I am wondering what the music I play at work says about me? But seriously, who doesn’t like a good show tune? ‘Have an egg roll, Mr Goldstein…’
Oy Vey!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

On the other side of the world... spring in New York.

My friend Martin in New York sent me some lovely pictures of spring in his little corner of the world. I think the pictures were mostly taken on his i-phone. Seeing these pics of New York stirred up most pleasant memories of my time there last year. Martin emailed, "The whole city is just gorgeous and temperate right now.  Very different from last summer when you were here and it was 100 degrees!" Before I launch into the pictures he sent, here is a link to his website if you would like to know a bit more about the man behind the i-phone camera who aside from being a kind, generous and lovely person is also known as; a playwright, screenwriter, teacher and ex-actor!!! Whew!!!  To get to the website just click on his name: martin casella

and now the pics with descriptions by Martin:

"A street in Soho, Spring comes slowly here and then..viola!"

"New York University. Pink dogwood trees and tulips."

"Another View of the dogwoods"

 "Spring Wisteria on West 10th, Greenwich Village"

Lasty, a photo of a street in Martin's Local neighbourhood.

Glorious stuff! Many thanks Martin!

To view the previous blog with pics of Spring in Virginia click here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Be Free...

It started with a cold sore and ended with a hand drawn flower and the words ‘be free… live life’.

I had been feeling ‘blah’ for a few weeks now and then the cold sore erupted, seemingly overnight. I called her- the healer, the spiritualist, the shaman. She has so many names. We talked. She worked her magic. My anger that had lain hidden and unexpressed, was drawn out. As if doing this wasn’t enough, she gave me another gift. She drew a flower, with the words ‘be free’ written above it and ‘live life’ written below. Even now I think about it-‘be free, live life’. A simple phrase, it’s richness lies in its application, in the doing. I catch myself thinking, analysing, my mind ticks over and my brow furrows. I stop and smile at my folly. The realisation has come, Yes, it is that simple…

As I write this I am reminded of some street art I had snapped on my local walks. I have no idea who the artist/s responsible is/are, but I am grateful for their art!! (p.s. I am certain that the playing cards are real).

This first one is placed over the roof of a toilet block, on the side of a Cafe on Blyth St, East Brunswick.

This next one is on the side of a building on Smith St, Collingwood (perhaps a cafe/bar?).

Lastly, this is on the side of the 'Tin Pot Cafe' on St Georges Rd, Nth Fitzroy.

Let your troubles fall away. Be free, live life.... it is as simple as it sounds. What have we been waiting for?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

On the other side of the world... spring

Right now on the other side of the world, it is spring. My friend Joe in Virginia, (in the United States) has taken a couple of pictures of 'spring' in his local area and kindly shared them with us. So while we enjoy autumn and think about the encroaching winter cold, lets take a moment to bask in spring, which is occurring right now, on the other side of the world!

In this first picture, Joe says you can see what a spectacular year it has been for the dogwoods (the white flowers).

This second picture is a close up of a dogwood flower

In this picture the Lady Banksia climbing rose is 'in all her glory' over the doorway. The green of spring presented here makes it hard to imagine the deep snow of winter which blanketed everything white, just a few months ago.

This final picture is of the Blue Ridge mountains off in the distance. The bare tress suggest that spring has only just began... This could just as much be a late autumnal or winter picture. It has such a beautiful haunting quality about it that draws me in and holds my attention.

Dear Joe, thank you so much for kindly sharing your spring.

As a side note:
When I received these pictures, I was so excited not only by them, but also by the mention of the Blue Ridge mountains! Fleet Foxes self titled debut Lp has a track called 'Blue Ridge mountains' on it. Here is the song with a fan made clip. I have no idea if any or all of the images are of the actual Blue Ridge mountains, but they do look beautiful and it is a beautiful tune. If you haven't heard the album, what are you waiting for?